WWE NXT Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from January 22
NXT moving to USA Network made 2019 the biggest year for the black-and-gold brand, but 2020 is already shaping up to be even more important for NXT and NXT UK.
The first WWE Network event of the year was NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool II on January 12. The next one will be Worlds Collide on Saturday, which will feature stars from both NXT brands competing for supremacy.
We will also see NXT Superstars appear during the Royal Rumble on Sunday, and TakeOver: Portland will happen February 16. That's four major events featuring talents from the black-and-gold brand within the first two months of the year.
What used to be known as WWE's developmental system is quickly becoming the hottest brand in sports entertainment, especially with the men and women on the roster rising to the occasion every Wednesday.
This week's show featured the semifinals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, Toni Storm taking on Io Shirai, and Keith Lee challenging Roderick Strong for the North American Championship.
Let's take a look at everything that happened during the go-home episode of NXT before Worlds Collide and the Royal Rumble.
The Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly
Wednesday's show didn't waste any time getting to the action. The first semifinal of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic kicked things off, with Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly taking on The Grizzled Young Veterans.
The first few minutes were a furious exchange of strikes and counters. O'Reilly eventually took control by yanking Zack Gibson's leg over the middle rope.
The Undisputed Era dominated the match until the break. Gibson and James Drake were able to turn things around while the match was being shown side-by-side with the commercials.
Fish came in hot when the show returned and fought both opponents for as long as he could. He managed to kick out of a double-team move, which gave O'Reilly enough time to recover.
Imperium's music hit and the group appeared on the perch above the crowd. The distraction allowed Gibson and Drake to hit their finisher for the victory.
The Undisputed Era's resident tag team has been together since 2012. Fish and O'Reilly are known for their tandem offense and striking ability, both of which were on full display in this match.
Gibson and Drake have been together a little over two years, but they have already turned into a well-oiled machine. Both teams worked together to create a fun, frenetic performance.
The Grizzled Young Veterans defeating The Time Splitters came as a shock to many. It would have been awesome to see Alex Shelley and Kushida take on Fish and O'Reilly, but Gibson and Drake did not disappoint.
The finish allowed The Grizzled Young Veterans to score a big upset win over one of the best tag teams in NXT history without making Fish and O'Reilly look weak. The feud between Imperium and The UE was addressed without overshadowing the match, and that is not always an easy thing to do in this kind of situation.
Io Shirai vs. Toni Storm
Io Shirai and Toni Storm began with a physical lockup that saw the former take the latter down into a single-leg submission. The former NXT UK women's champion quickly countered out of it and offered her hand as a sign of respect.
Shirai batted her hand away and hit a backflip into a dropkick. Storm got in some decent offense, but The Genius of the Sky dominated the next few minutes.
She used strikes to wear down the New Zealand Superstar and submissions to keep her grounded. After the commercial break, Storm began to make a comeback with a snap German suplex.
She turned Shirai inside out with a clothesline, but it didn't take long for her to recover. As she prepared to hit a suicide dive, Bianca Belair came out of nowhere to attack Storm and cause a disqualification.
Rhea Ripley came out to join the fight, but an angry Shirai quickly took her and Belair down. Storm ended the fight by taking out her opponent before posing with the NXT Women's Championship.
Despite being a heel, Shirai is loved by the NXT Universe. Whenever she was in control, everyone chanted her name.
The announcers acknowledging the history between Storm and Shirai from their time in Japan helped give this match a little more meaning and might lead some curious fans to seek out their previous contests.
The match was good, but the ending could have been better. Having two matches end dirty back-to-back can be a bad thing.
Finn Balor vs. Joaquin Wilde
Joaquin Wilde, formerly known as DJZ and Zema Ion, took on Finn Balor in the third match of the night. As expected, The Prince was in the driver's seat from the moment the bell rang.
Wilde got in one or two shots before Balor propelled him into the corner with a dropkick and finished him off with the Coup de Grace and 1916.
This was a short contest designed to make Balor look strong heading into his match against Ilja Dragunov at Worlds Collide on Saturday.
Wilde is still new to NXT, but he has been in the business since 2003. There is still time for him to be successful, but it's a shame to see him putting others over so early in his run.
Short matches can still be good, and this was one of them. Everything they did looked smooth, and it accomplished the goal of giving Balor a little momentum before this weekend. If they had two or three more minutes, it would have received a better grade.
Let's hope this isn't their last encounter because they showed some chemistry in the limited amount of time they had in the ring together.
Shayna Baszler vs. Shotzi Blackheart
After eliminating Shayna Baszler from the women's Battle Royal last week, Shotzi Blackheart found herself in the former champion's crosshairs.
The newcomer to NXT got in some decent offense before The Queen of Spades began manipulating her joints to set her up for one of her signature submissions.
Blackheart turned the tables and showed off her striking ability with some precision kicks. She hit Sliced Bread No. 2, but she took too much time trying to follow up and Baszler caught her in the Kirifuda Clutch for the submission victory.
She refused to release the hold after the bell until she was sure Blackheart had passed out.
It's still strange to see Baszler without the NXT women's title around her waist after holding it for 416 days. She has been the anchor of the women's division, but she is just as dangerous without the belt.
Blackheart was the underdog going into this bout, so it wasn't surprising to see her take the loss, but she did come out of it looking tough because she got in so much offense against a woman who usually dominates her opponents.
The outcome was predictable, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing if it's the decision that makes most sense. Blackheart looked good in this match, and continuing to perform at a high level will eventually lead to a push.
The BroserWeights vs. Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner
Pete Dunne and Matt Riddle looked to continue their winning ways as The BroserWeights and earn a spot in the final round of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic this week. Imperium was the only thing standing in their way.
Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel represented their stable, but wherever they go, WALTER and Alexander Wolfe are sure to be close by.
This was a fast-paced encounter with a lot of back-and-forth action. Nobody had control for more than a minute, and it looked like either team could win at several points in the match.
WALTER taunted Dunne with the NXT UK Championship he took from him at TakeOver: New York, and the distraction allowed his stablemates to take over before the break.
The final exchange received a "This is awesome" chant from the crowd. After a wild series of maneuvers, Dunne and Riddle picked up the win.
Dunne and Riddle are what you would call an odd-couple tag team. Their personalities couldn't be any different, but their styles mesh well to create a solid duo.
All four men contributed to what ended up being a pay-per-view-quality match. The crowd was on its feet during the final moments, and the energy in the building helped make this bout feel even more important.
It was nice to see WWE hold back on having The Undisputed Era get revenge for what happened earlier in the show. Another disqualification or distraction finish would have been too much.
The Grizzled Young Veterans came out to confront their opponents in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic final. While Dunne is part of the main NXT brand now, it's cool to see three out of the four Superstars in the last round coming from NXT UK.
Roderick Strong vs. Keith Lee (North American Championship)
Strong mistakenly tried to chop Lee early in the match, which led to The Limitless One knocking him from corner to corner with some chops of his own.
For the first few minutes before the break, Lee had an answer for everything his opponent tried. We returned to see the big man continuing to put the champion through the wringer.
Fish, O'Reilly and Adam Cole did what they do best and distracted Lee long enough for Strong to recover and take him out on the apron with a basement dropkick. He immediately began focusing on the ankle The UE hurt last week with a steel chair.
The challenger made a comeback, but a missed moonsault allowed Strong to apply an ankle lock. Lee fought through it and found a way to hit his finisher to win the match and become the new North American champion.
After he left the arena, Imperium showed up to end the night by brawling with The Undisputed Era.
The Undisputed Era may be popular, but Lee was the crowd favorite from the moment the announcer gave the official introductions.
WWE gave them a lot of time to close the show, and they used it wisely. Lee had the size and power advantage, but Strong never felt like an underdog.
He did a good job countering Lee's size by taking out his foundation. The group attacked his ankle last week, and going after it again was a nice bit of continuity.
After having a breakout year in 2019, it's great to see Lee get the chance to hold a championship in NXT. A lot of people would like to see him go to Raw or SmackDown in 2020, and that is still possible, but he is going to shine as the North American champion.